Gourmet (US: //, UK: //) is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterised by refined, even elaborate preparations and presentations of aesthetically balanced meals of several contrasting, often quite rich courses. The term and its associated practices are usually used positively to describe people of refined taste and passion.
The term gourmet can refer to a person with refined or discriminating taste who is knowledgeable in the craft and art of food and food preparation. Gourmand carries additional connotations of one who simply enjoys food in great quantities. An epicure is similar to a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement. A gourmet chef is a chef of particularly high caliber of cooking talent and skill.
Gourmet may describe a class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient of high quality, of special presentation, or high sophistication. In the United States, a 1980s gourmet food movement evolved from a long-term division between elitist (or "gourmet") tastes and a populist aversion to fancy foods. Gourmet is an industry classification for high-quality premium foods in the United States. In the 2000s, there has been an accelerating increase in the American gourmet market, due in part to rising income, globalization of taste, and health and nutrition concerns. Individual food and beverage categories, such as coffee, are often divided between a standard and a "gourmet" sub-market.
Certain events such as wine tastings cater to people who consider themselves gourmets and foodies. Television programs (such as those on the Food Network) and publications such as Gourmet magazine often serve gourmets with food columns and features. Gourmet tourism is a niche industry catering to people who travel to food or wine tastings, restaurants, or food and wine production regions for leisure.
Origin of term
The word gourmet is from the French term for a wine broker or taste-vin employed by a wine dealer. Friand was formerly the reputable name for a connoisseur of delicious things that were not eaten primarily for nourishment: "A good gourmet", wrote the conservative eighteenth-century Dictionnaire de Trévoux, employing this original sense, "must have le goût friand", or a refined palate. The pleasure is also visual: "J'aime un ragoût, et je suis friand", Giacomo Casanova declared, "mais s'il n'a pas bonne mine, il me semble mauvais". In the eighteenth century, gourmet and gourmand carried disreputable connotations of gluttony, which only gourmand has retained. Gourmet was rendered respectable by Monsieur Grimod de la Reynière, whose Almanach des Gourmands, essentially the first restaurant guide, appeared in Paris from 1803 to 1812. Previously, even the liberal Encyclopédie offered a moralising tone in its entry Gourmandise, defined as "refined and uncontrolled love of good food", employing reproving illustrations that contrasted the frugal ancient Spartans and Romans of the Republic with the decadent luxury of Sybaris. The Jesuits' Dictionnaire de Trévoux took the Encyclopédistes to task, reminding its readers that gourmandise was one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Foodie is often used by the media as a conversational synonym for gourmet, although it is a different concept (that of a food aficionado). The word foodie was coined synchronously by Gael Greene in the magazine New York and by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, co-authors of The Official Foodie Handbook (1984).
The term "gourmet" is often used in the context of the MFA Graphic Design department at the renowned design school, Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, Rhode Island. Situated next door to the MFA Graphic Design's graduate studio on 169 Weybosset Street, Serendipity Gourmet, formerly known as Gourmet Heaven, is widely known among its frequent customers as "Gourmetahaven," named after the Dutch design studio Metahaven. For these graduate students, the word "gourmet" now carries a new meaning that brings to mind anything but the real definition of gourmet.
- Charles McGrath (January 26, 2007). "In Arizona back country, a gourmet life". International Herald Tribune.
- The United States of Arugula:How We Became a Gourmet Nation. Doubleday Broadway. 2006.
- "The U.S. Market for Gourmet and Specialty Foods and Beverages". Packaged Facts. September 2005.
- Vicki Mabrey and Deborah Apton (March 31, 2008). "From McMuffins to McLattes:McDonald's Chases Gourmet Coffee Market, Plans Massive Restaurant Upgrade". ABC News.
- Marina Novelli (2004). Niche Tourism: Contemporary Issues, Trends and Cases. Butterworth-Heinemann.
- Christy Harrison (March 7, 2007). "Tour Buses on the Horizon". Travel Industry Association of America.
- Cotgrave's French-English dictionary of 1611, quoted by Jean-Louis Flandrin, whose chapter "Distinction Through Taste", in A History of Private Life: Passions of the Renaissance (Belknap Press, Harvard University) 1989:289-92, "Gluttons and Epicures", traces the significance of these French terms in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
- "I love a ragout, and I am a connoisseur, but if it isn't good-looking, it seems bad to me." (Histoire de ma vie, 8:ix) for Casanova the immediate question was whether a young woman of literary tastes would have been interesting if she had not been lovely.
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- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gourmet". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 288.